Sometimes I get quite warm and fuzzy at how kind people are. After so long living our lives tucked away in the Spanish campo and me not having a lot to do with other people, it is easy to forget that folk can be truly wonderful.
On the last day of Franglish before the holiday last year, we all brought in something to share with the members, there were all sorts of sweet French delicacies, most notably for me was the bûche de Noël, (yule log). In the UK (I believe, I can’t rightly remember) this is a sponge cake coated in chocolate, but here in France – where the culinary experience is mostly ramped up to a 19 – it is a solid chocolate, hazelnut with walnut and alcoholic mixture that is heavenly. I fell in love with this, announced my undying love for Janine, the retired school teacher who made this gastronomic wonder, and helped myself to another piece. A few days later, while I was away visiting my mother on the other side of France, Vanessa had a visitor bearing gifts, Janine had made us TWO bûche de Noëls, and delivered them to us. She also expressed concern about the impending cold snap in the weather and said that should we get into trouble keeping warm we would always be welcome to visit with her and her overly large log fire.
Within the now-it’s-winter diminished boating community, it is fairly common knowledge that we are having a little problem with water. Using the canal water for washing up and loo flushing is no great deal, but bringing a container of five litres home each time we go to the shops can get a bit tedious, especially when it’s cold and you just want to keep your hands in your pockets. So John, the Australian Capitainerie for H2O’s Auxonne port de Plaisance delivered to us – totally off his own back – thirty-six litres of water, and lent us a handy jerry can with a tap on it. On top of that he took me to the local shop in his motor so that I could load up some more. We now have nearly eighty litres of water on board, which should do us for a while.
And then, on my birthday this last weekend we had another visitor. You have to appreciate that we live a fair distance from the centre of St-Jean de Losne, especially if you are ninety-three and it’s brass monkeys outside. At each Franglish meeting, it is someones turn to bring something sweet – one of the things I love about France is that any meeting of people is almost always punctuated by cake – now I don’t particularly like raisins or any dried fruit, I think they tend to ruin a perfectly good cake, but this one time Germaine brought a light sponge with rum soaked fruit in it, divine. So when Germaine learned it was my birthday, she made another one, and then walked the kilometre and a half to our boat to deliver it. So these, and more (the six bales of straw, the food people gave us when they left for the winter, the carpets from the hotel barges, not forgetting the rent-free mooring in exchange for looking after a house and a cat), all go a long way to helping me to regain my faith in humanity.
Having said all that, can I have a little rant, just a little one, pleeease, cool thanks 🙂 I read in a book many years ago – I think it was Peter Benchley’s Jaws – about a kid that wanted to fit in with the “summer people” and to do this he kept badgering his mother to buy him a Lacrosse t-shirt. Her words to him – and the reason I never forgot this bit – were that she refuses to buy a $2 t-shirt with a $20 crocodile on it! Wise words. The other day I found out that one of my favourite beer brewers are now making cheese, ooh heart palpitations and off to the shops I went. Sure enough, Leffe cheese, but alas, it is 0.50 ¢entime cheese with a 3 €uro beer logo printed on the label, bah. Seriously it wasn’t even a good cheese, disappointed.
You may remember that I wrote about the lack of celebrations in St-Jean de Losne on Bastille Day. On New Year’s Eve we were considering taking a walk out about half eleven to see whatever celebrations were taking place. I especially wanted to see in 2017 and make sure that 2016 was well and truly over, it was a great year for us, we’ve done more in this last year than we did in all the previous five, but sheesh did 2016 have to take so many influential people with it. Any hoo, not knowing if anything was planned Vee decided to do a Google and see, nothing came back which was a little weird. As the day went on it did start to get colder, and then there were some spots of ice forming outside the boat so we decided to stay in, but with the thought that when the fireworks started we would step off the boat and watch. Yeah yeah, what is it with this village? Not a sparkler or a bang was heard. It turns out – I don’t know if this is national or just regional – that New Year’s Eve is a time for family gatherings and feasting, not a time for unleashing huge amounts of explosive material into the air. I guess I should say that having cats we are against loud explosions and stuff, but since Dylan came to the end of his path a few years ago (big cat but man he was scared of his own shadow), the cats are pretty well unfazed by anything except strangers coming on board.
Where do the ducks go? Last week, after having nothing to feed them with for a couple of days, they left. It was convenient because they kept giving us a bollocking whenever we stepped off the boat because we had no food, and they can be so rude with their constant quacking. But where did they go? For about a week there was nary a duck to be found, and then today they started coming back again. Was there a duck conference somewhere nearby, where they report in on the quality of the food and accommodation that they are having to suffer? The state of the water that they paddle on (do ducks paddle or swim?). Or do they just not like having cold feet and walking on ice is bothersome so they go down to the river for a bit of a break? Either way, they’re back and just as stupid as ever, Vee has just cut a load of going-soft-fruit up for them to chow down on, and they aren’t touching it, is that a quack of “bring out the bread, keep the sodding rabbit food”? Hey ho.
So far, and I touch wood at this point, we have avoided colds and ‘flu and any sort of illness that would make living in this small, colder than average space, a bit of a nightmare. Reason; we’re eating lots of chilies, garlic and ginger. I read somewhere that these three ingredients will almost guarantee that you don’t come down with any nasties. I have a feeling it may be because the garlic keeps any and everyone (who can inflict any bugs upon you), away. The important thing to remember is not to cook the goodness out of them, whereas most western recipes say to cook these three at the start of the cooking process (eg with the onions), put them in later, betwixt the browning and the simmering bit depending on what you’re throwing together.